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Interview J.E. Sawyer Interview By Grupo97

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Tags: J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment

Gaming site Grupo97 <a href="http://grupo97.halconesrojos.com/index.php/artlos-mainmenu-28/9-juegos/346-jesawyerinterview">has an interview with J.E. Sawyer</a> up (in English), that asks some interesting questions about his views on gaming in general. Anyone looking for New Vegas information will be slightly disappointed, but it's a good read itself. Here's a few juicy quotes.<blockquote>The threshold of simplicity that a hardcore gamer will accept is a lot lower than the threshold of difficulty that a mainstream gamer will accept.
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A hardcore gamer may accept an automapping tool but scoff that in "the old days", he or she had to write things out on graph paper. A mainstream gamer will probably not accept the absence of an automapping tool. He or she will stop playing the game and tell everyone they know that it is terrible.
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[...]
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<b>- Fallout, Baldur's Gate, Planescape Torment... Great games were developed at Black Isle, kind of games not easy to see today on the shelves. Some of them sold great, as Baldur's Gate. Do you believe would it be still possible to develop similar games to those today?</b>
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I guess it depends on how similar they need to be. In terms of mechanics, I think a lot of gamers wouldn't accept the controls or conventions of those old games. In terms of content, I believe it's still possible to do, but it's harder now.
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[...]
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The current gaming market doesn't typically support big budget games that deal with intellectually mature issues. Mature content is equated with sex and violence. Video games have not often been used as a theme-based or didactic medium, but that's not entirely the publisher's or developer's fault. As with films and books, most gaming audiences simply don't care as much about issues and themes as they do about visceral feedback.
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[...]
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I only did a bit of design work on the Dark Alliance games, but I think it was good for Interplay and Black Isle to work with Snowblind on those projects. Black Isle consisted almost entirely of PC RPG developers and it gave us a narrow focus. I think working on console titles helped open up some of the developers (myself included) to look at other input systems and gameplay styles.</blockquote>Go check it out. It's a nice interview.
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Thanks <b>Santiago</b>!
 

Turok

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Pseudofool

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Video games have not often been used as a theme-based or didactic medium, but that's not entirely the publisher's or developer's fault. As with films and books, most gaming audiences simply don't care as much about issues and themes as they do about visceral feedback.
While this might be true now, I think narrative demands of audience's medium increase manifold over time, esp. from one generation to the next. Some might scoff at the example, but I for one, have been generally impressed how much narrative-based television in the past ten years. Both thematically and dramatically (and one could even make an argument for didacticism, here, too), the writing in television has improved esp. off the major networks, and not exclusively on the premium channels. It might be an aberration, but it's at least encouraging.
 

Secretninja

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Pseudofool said:
Video games have not often been used as a theme-based or didactic medium, but that's not entirely the publisher's or developer's fault. As with films and books, most gaming audiences simply don't care as much about issues and themes as they do about visceral feedback.
While this might be true now, I think narrative demands of audience's medium increase manifold over time, esp. from one generation to the next. Some might scoff at the example, but I for one, have been generally impressed how much narrative-based television in the past ten years. Both thematically and dramatically (and one could even make an argument for didacticism, here, too), the writing in television has improved esp. off the major networks, and not exclusively on the premium channels. It might be an aberration, but it's at least encouraging.

Nip Tuck being a prime example. And Entourage.
 

Pseudofool

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Secretninja said:
Pseudofool said:
Video games have not often been used as a theme-based or didactic medium, but that's not entirely the publisher's or developer's fault. As with films and books, most gaming audiences simply don't care as much about issues and themes as they do about visceral feedback.
While this might be true now, I think narrative demands of audience's medium increase manifold over time, esp. from one generation to the next. Some might scoff at the example, but I for one, have been generally impressed how much narrative-based television in the past ten years. Both thematically and dramatically (and one could even make an argument for didacticism, here, too), the writing in television has improved esp. off the major networks, and not exclusively on the premium channels. It might be an aberration, but it's at least encouraging.

Nip Tuck being a prime example. And Entourage.
Actually, those are ok. But I think Madmen, BSG, Rome, Dexter, Breaking Bad and many others are better (Entourage has really fallen off, if you ask me). But you get the idea.
 

bhlaab

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Entourage fell off? Of what, the anthill of quality it was poised upon?
 

Pseudofool

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bhlaab said:
Entourage fell off? Of what, the anthill of quality it was poised upon?
I suppose you're right (the concept was pretty weak to begin with, not even good writing can save it from that); sue me for trying to be gracious to someone who responded to my post.
 

Pseudofool

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Dicksmoker said:
Ditto for movies.
Yeah? I've felt the writing in movies has been oddly inconsistent, esp. for the big studio pictures. But there's always been quality film in non-mainstream selections, thought I'm not sure we see quite teh great leap we've seen in television.
 

Annie Mitsoda

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Good interview. They also used the phrase "rogue nipple" which nearly made me choke to death on my soda. Just say it with me now: rogue nipple. Don't that just roll off the tongue? ;)

Also, Breaking Bad is an awesome fucking series. Just sayin.
 

Zomg

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Enjoyed it but the PC and DRM stuff was a waste of time. The stuff about expanding budgets and market sizes should be common analysis at this point, too, but I guess it's good to repeat it because it probably isn't.
 

Wyrmlord

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Sawyer, you fail. If you are reading this forum (which you often do), heed this.

Videogames are not for mature issues. A videogame is just for posing a challenge to a player and give him the fun of overcoming it.

It is NOT about social critic silliness, or trying to do any mental masturbation with a self-entitled profound issues. That sort of high-minded direction belongs more for passive media, not for videogames, which are only about what the player can do with it, not about what those deep philosophical ideas the game designer has in his mind that he wants to show to the masses. That is not what an honest man pays $60 for.

With all due respect, if you (and many other developers) actually worried about the videogame being good as a videogame, and not about pseudo-intellectual digressions of what themes and ideas you can fit into them, then they won't have a myriad of broken game design, technical issues, and absolute lack of actual gameplay content.

It's because of such thinking that there are games like Heavy Rain, where the entire game revolves around quick-time events to rip a woman's skirt off.
 

Rohit_N

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Serpent in the Staglands Project: Eternity Wasteland 2 Codex USB, 2014 Shadorwun: Hong Kong
Wyrmlord said:
Sawyer, you fail. If you are reading this forum (which you often do), heed this.

Videogames are not for mature issues. A videogame is just for posing a challenge to a player and give him the fun of overcoming it.

It is NOT about social critic silliness, or trying to do any mental masturbation with a self-entitled profound issues. That sort of high-minded direction belongs more for passive media, not for videogames, which are only about what the player can do with it, not about what those deep philosophical ideas the game designer has in his mind that he wants to show to the masses. That is not what an honest man pays $60 for.

With all due respect, if you (and many other developers) actually worried about the videogame being good as a videogame, and not about pseudo-intellectual digressions of what themes and ideas you can fit into them, then they won't have a myriad of broken game design, technical issues, and absolute lack of actual gameplay content.

It's because of such thinking that there are games like Heavy Rain, where the entire game revolves around quick-time events to rip a woman's skirt off.
In the end, I agree with you. Doom has provided more hours of entertainment for me than BioShock did (I still haven't finished the game).

Still, I'm curious about what you think of these blog posts on Gamasutra.

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/ReidKimb ... layers.php
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/ReidKimb ... gaging.php
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/ReidKimb ... meplay.php
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/AdamBish ... f_Math.php
 

Wyrmlord

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I think that it is a sign of a few things.

- The increasing mathematical illiteracy in this age has resulted in people wanting to compensate for this illiteracy by putting emphasis on unquantifiable things like moral philosophy; a sign of decadent idiocracy.

- Mathematically illiterate people fail at life, use videogames to compensate for it, and hence must use their videogames to emulate life and be a substitute for life, while the rest of us just want to have fun with videogames without actually wanting to live in them.

But that is just my not-so-humble-and-a-bit-too-radical opinion. ;)
 

Pseudofool

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Wyrmlord said:
Sawyer, you fail. If you are reading this forum (which you often do), heed this.

Videogames are not for mature issues. A videogame is just for posing a challenge to a player and give him the fun of overcoming it.

It is NOT about social critic silliness, or trying to do any mental masturbation with a self-entitled profound issues. That sort of high-minded direction belongs more for passive media, not for videogames, which are only about what the player can do with it, not about what those deep philosophical ideas the game designer has in his mind that he wants to show to the masses. That is not what an honest man pays $60 for.

With all due respect, if you (and many other developers) actually worried about the videogame being good as a videogame, and not about pseudo-intellectual digressions of what themes and ideas you can fit into them, then they won't have a myriad of broken game design, technical issues, and absolute lack of actual gameplay content.

It's because of such thinking that there are games like Heavy Rain, where the entire game revolves around quick-time events to rip a woman's skirt off.
This is a troublingly weak and short sighted take.

A medium is a medium is a medium. Your preferred method of how that medium ought to be used has no baring on anyone elses.

Moreover, there's no reason you have to sacrifice gameplay or in general 'entertainment' or style for depth. They're not mutually exclusive, and if you think they are you live in the land of the talentless.

All video games have narratives, and narratives by default have character and theme whether they intend to or not. When narrative features begin to interfere with however you might define "videogameness" you might have point, but when you sacrifice narrative on the altar of "fun lolz" you end up with console kiddies (who end up growing up, and demanding more from their video games).

There's a strange kind of megalomania where people mistake their individual aesthetics for individual truths.
 

Pseudofool

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Wyrmlord said:
I think that it is a sign of a few things.

- The increasing mathematical illiteracy in this age has resulted in people wanting to compensate for this illiteracy by putting emphasis on unquantifiable things like moral philosophy; a sign of decadent idiocracy.
Says the man who uses a crap-load of multisyllabic meaningless abstractions.

Mathematics of course is a model of reality, a good metaphor that provides much insight. But still it's an abstraction. If you don't get that, you lack depth, my friend.
 

Pseudofool

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abstract said:
Are you compensating for that small Asian penis?
By compensate you mean post on a message board? It must be exceedingly easy to win your laurels. No, I'm not Asian, and my penis says, RARR.
 

The Ticktockman

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Wyrmlord said:
- People from shitty third-world Eastern European countries can't do math for shit, since it is not in their Slavic genes, and they are the ones intruding into the gaming scene in large numbers.

Out of all your bullshit, I found this little gem particularly hilarious. And wrong.
 

abstract

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Pseudofool said:
abstract said:
Are you compensating for that small Asian penis?
By compensate you mean post on a message board? It must be exceedingly easy to win your laurels. No, I'm not Asian, and my penis says, RARR.

dood, I was talking to Wyrmlord.
 

Wyrmlord

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The Ticktockman said:
Wyrmlord said:
- People from shitty third-world Eastern European countries can't do math for shit, since it is not in their Slavic genes, and they are the ones intruding into the gaming scene in large numbers.

Out of all your bullshit, I found this little gem particularly hilarious. And wrong.
Yes, this is one of those deeply embarassing occasions where I attempt a joke and it flings right back at my own face in a terrible backsplat.

It really would have been better if I just wrote something less over the top, like "Even Baltic peasants who can't do math are playing games these days."

Nah, fuck it, this joke would never have worked, not even with an emoticon. :?
 

bhlaab

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The Ticktockman said:
Wyrmlord said:
- People from shitty third-world Eastern European countries can't do math for shit, since it is not in their Slavic genes, and they are the ones intruding into the gaming scene in large numbers.

Out of all your bullshit, I found this little gem particularly hilarious. And wrong.

It is true, I don't even think them people have numbers even. They just got kind of squiggly lines n shit instead.

Anyway, to seriously add to the discussion.. I think Wyrmlord is confusing intellectual with pseudo-intellectual.
This isn't about games attempting to look smart by quoting Ayn Rand and it's certainly not games taking after the Very Special Episodes of Diffrent Strokes. It's about generating narrative themes so that we can react to them better on a more human level.

Hell, the Terminator movies have themes and meaning behind them. That doesn't mean they're less fun or poltically motivated or meant to be cited in your grad school thesis.

To put it into the context of games, imagine Fallout without its themes of irony, despair, and propoganda in the face of paranoia. It'd just be "a dude in the desert fights some guys!!!"
 

Pseudofool

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bhlaab said:
To put it into the context of games, imagine Fallout without its themes of irony, despair, and propoganda in the face of paranoia. It'd just be "a dude in the desert fights some guys!!!"
Expactly! Part of the challenge of creating Art, yes, ART, is to disguise it so those that enjoy don't even realize the thematic and didactic realm they've entered.

The first two Fallouts, while I think a bit boorish in their execution, gain my admiration for tackling the real world dilemmas faced by cultures and people of a post-apocalyptic world. This is precisely what Fallout 3 lacked--any insight into the humanity and complicate culture with which they attempted to create.
 

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